French workers are intensifying their protests against the unpopular pension reforms being pushed by Emmanuel Macron’s government. Responding to a joint call issued by major French trade unions, on Thursday, February 16, for the fifth time since January this year, workers—in the hundreds of thousands—hit the streets across the country denouncing the new pension reforms that seek to raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 64. The protesters have reiterated their demand that the proposed reforms be withdrawn and called for increases in the minimum wage and pensions in the country. Activists from left-wing parties and student-youth groups affiliated with the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES) coalition also joined the protest mobilizations.
According to estimates by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), around 1.3 million people took part in the mobilizations on Thursday, including 300,000 in Paris, 55,000 in Albi, and 15,000 in Grenoble. The unions have called for a total shutdown of the country on March 7 by national strike and massive mobilizations.
On Friday, February 17, major developments are expected in the French parliament, as the lower house—the National Assembly—will finalize its deliberations on the proposed reforms before they are passed on to the Senate. There have been reports that suggest that there exists a lack of unity among the MPs from the NUPES coalition over whether to debate all the proposed amendments to the pension reforms bill or to focus on the defeat of Article 7 of the bill, which calls to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64. Time is running short for the opposition. If the National Assembly fails to complete the debate and vote on the bill by Friday night, the bill will automatically be pushed to the Senate for further deliberations. The minority government, led by President Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, is counting on support from all the MPs from Macron’s Renaissance (RE) and The Republicans.
While addressing the media during the mobilization on Thursday, Fabien Roussel, the leader of the French Communist Party (PCF), said that “the government is stubborn and the President of the Republic provokes us by asking the French to accept this unjust reform.”